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Aesthetic Water Quality Problems

Aesthetic water problems are those which are usually not considered harmful to health, but they do affect the taste and look of the water, and may cause it to be undrinkable by some people’s standards.

Turbidity: Cloudy Water

At one time or another, most people have encountered water that looks foggy or cloudy. This cloudiness is due to turbidity: the presence of fine solid particles in water. These particles may be inorganic minerals that do not dissolve, or organic matter that has been picked up as the water flows over and through the ground. These fine particles cause the scattering and adsorption of light rays, which gives the water a cloudy appearance.

Water turbidity can cause staining of sinks and fixtures, and the discolouration of laundered fabrics. It can deposit in the plumbing system and cause erosion of the pipes and fittings. Turbidity is most commonly found in water coming from the lakes, rivers or ponds.

Taste and Odour

Another problem that quickly catches people’s attention is objectionable taste or odour present in water. Taste and odour are associated with each other and it is difficult to treat them as separate problems.

A common characteristic of water from municipal systems is the chlorine taste and odour, which is often quite noticeable. Many public water systems treat water with chlorine to disinfect it. Although this is an important step in the treatment of water to destroy disease producing bacteria and other harmful organisms, there is no doubt that excess chlorine from the disinfection treatment step can make the taste of water objectionable.

In some cases, water with a high mineral concentration may have an unpleasant soda or salty taste, and a metallic taste may be produced by the presence of iron or manganese in water.

If the water contains hydrogen sulfide gas it produces an obnoxious “rotten egg” odour. Such “sulphur water” can harm plumbing and tarnish silver ware.

The presence of organic matter in water also causes various taste and odour problems such as fishy, musty, or earthy smells.

All these objectionable taste and odours in water also affect the foods and beverages prepared from it.


Colour is another noticeable water problem, which can make the water unappealing to drink, and may cause staining of surfaces.

A yellowish colour is usually due to organic particles picked up by the water if it has passed through marshlands and peaty soils. Being organic in nature it presents no health hazard. Tannin, which is a humic acid, is a very common cause for the discolouration of water.

A worse colour condition is often caused by the presence of iron in water. Water with dissolved iron may appear clear when first drawn, but may turn a brown-red colour when it stands exposed to air or when it is boiled. It is unappealing for drinking and leaves stains on dishes and laundry.

Treatment for turbidity, taste and colour

The most effective process for reducing most of these aesthetic problems is the use of a sediment and an activated carbon filter. Sediment filters are designed to remove the solid particles from the water reducing the cloudiness, and helps the carbon filter perform more efficiently and last longer. The activated carbon has an ability to adsorb (bind to its surface) soluble organic compounds and certain gases. The carbon reduces most of the taste and odour problems like excess amounts of chlorine. It produces tasty water for drinking or preparation of beverages as well as for cooking.

The ‘rotten egg’ smell due to hydrogen sulfide is more difficult to remove. If the concentration is low, then an activated carbon filter may be used. For greater concentrations, an iron removal filter is necessary. Also a reverse osmosis system paired with a carbon filter can solve the problem. Obviously a distillation system can solve most of the above problems.

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